Do you ever feel like an inadequate Christian? You don’t read enough, pray enough, or serve enough in the kingdom of God? I recently heard from a reader in response to the Overcomer’s E-Course on this very topic. She said she often feels like a “less-than” Christian; like she never does enough in her walk with God.
I sense she’s not alone. Our spiritual enemy works daily to integrate his lies into our lives. One of those lies comes wrapped in a shroud of faith and good works: the lie that being a believer is a one-time decision, and that the rest of life is up to us.
Being a Christian is a Not a To-Do List
Let’s go back to the gospel. What does it mean to be a Christian? This title is adopted by many in today’s world – many who neither know what it means nor the life it requires. Jesus was clear about His mission and our response:
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life… Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:16, 36)
“But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” (Gal. 4:4-5)
Our salvation is the work of God through Jesus. Apart from the perfect sacrifice of Christ, we could never be reconciled to God. Our sin required atonement – and God Himself made a way for us to be in relationship with Him. This aspect of our salvation is justification. Through Jesus, we receive a justified standing in the eyes of God. We are no longer unrighteous sinners, but adopted daughters and sons.
So if we are holy through Christ, why bother with living holy lives?
“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Pet. 1:13-15)
God’s grace is not an excuse to live however we want. It’s an upward call to choose holiness at every opportunity because that is who we are. When we sin, we’re conforming ourselves to “the passions of our former ignorance”. To be a Christian is to walk by the power of God’s Spirit, who we receive from Him upon or after salvation, choosing holiness out of gratitude and love for our Savior.
The Christian life, then, is not a to-do list. We don’t accept Christ’s sacrifice and head out on our own to “be good people”. We can’t do that apart from Him! So if you’re struggling with inadequacy in your life, the real question is not, “How much more can I do?” but “Have I missed the point of faith in Christ?”
The Goal of Bible Study is Knowing God
The goal of our faith is to know God and make Him known. We are brought into relationship with God by the blood of Jesus not so He can obtain a moralistic army of rule-followers, but so we can commune in holy relationship with Him. Our God is a God of love, compassion, grace, and community. The Christian disciplines of faith – Bible study, prayer, church, service, and holiness – all spring from this relationship. The relationship we have with God is not a means to an end – it is the entire POINT.
Let’s look at the example of Bible study. If we feel guilty for failing to do devotions for several days, the real problem is our mentality. Bible study shouldn’t be an item to check off the list; it should be a delight to our heart, our way of communing with the Lord. When we see it as a means to an end, we treat it like just another chore or appointment. But when we see Bible study as a way to “see and savor the glory of God” (as John Piper puts it), we are far less likely to procrastinate.
Your Bible is the clearest revelation of who God is and what He wants for your life. It is how you come to know God fully, daily, as He chose to reveal Himself on earth. Guilt has no place in this. Don’t wait until you’re worthy to seek Him – just seek.
The Goal of Prayer is the Presence of God
The same goes for prayer. When we lament that we’re “bad at praying”, forgetful, tired, and bored, what we’re really saying is we don’t think it’s important enough to integrate into our lives. We don’t think it actually makes a difference; that God is worth our time and worship. That’s a hard message, but it’s one I often preach to myself!
The goal of prayer and Bible study isn’t to prove to God and others that we do the right, Christian-y things. The goal is for us to know God. There is no measure for what that will look like. There is no end date, no yard stick, no goal line. Seeking God is a continual journey. So don’t worry how many days you haven’t prayed – get up and pray! Make the choice to love Christ for Christ’s sake – no other reason is necessary.
When you shift your focus from the tasks of Christianity to the love of Christ, you’ll find this yoke far easier than expected.
The Yoke is Easy
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30)
I struggled with this as a young believer. The yoke didn’t feel easy. It felt quite the opposite – heavy, burdensome, impossible. I could never do or be enough for the God I understood at the time.
Looking back, I clearly see that I was attempting to live a sanctified life apart from the power of the Holy Spirit – our Leader into sanctification! This “bootstrap” Christianity is not God’s intention, and misses the entire point of Christ’s sacrifice.
If you’re feeling inadequate and “never enough” in your Christian walk, it’s time to align your perspective. Are you trying to live a life of morality without walking by the Spirit of God? If so, you will continue to walk under the heavy weight of impossibility. Instead, repent of trying to do it on your own. Ask God for a renewed love for and an ear for His Spirit. Listen for His voice, and spend time with the Lord asking Him to speak to you. Meditate on His Word and pray it back to Him. Let what easily becomes the “rite” of a quiet time a time for God to speak to you, rather than you speaking to God.
You will never be able to change yourself into the image of Christ. So come to Him with your labor and your heavy load; lay them down, and let Him give you rest. What He gives in exchange is a far lighter burden: simple trust in His sanctifying power.